Take a look into any pantry in America, and you are likely to find this food staple in its dry form: Pasta! It is such a simple food to cook that you don’t have to be a top-chef to prepare a delicious pasta dish; just bring your creativity and favorite pasta and ingredients into the kitchen with you.

While pastas are traditionally made with wheat, there are now more options available like whole-grain pastas, and gluten-free options that are made with ingredients like corn and rice. Are you looking to eat more fresh plant-based foods? Try spaghetti squash or raw zucchini pasta instead! The type of pasta is not the only thing that can make a dish healthier. Choosing healthy pasta sauces and other additional ingredients like a protein, vegetables, and herbs can add essential vitamins and minerals to your daily diet.

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Whether your taste is for a whole-grain, gluten-free, or vegetable type pasta, creating a flavorful and healthy meal should be the final culinary creation. To help get you started, here are some healthy ways to enjoy pasta at home.

Whole-Grain Pasta does not have the bran, germ, or endosperm removed and contains more natural fiber than pastas made of refined wheat. Also tends to be more filling and nutritious.

Gluten-Free Pasta is made with corn, brown rice, quinoa and corn combo, potatoes, and soybeans, all of which do not contain gluten – a protein found in certain grains including wheat, rye, and barley.

Vegetable Version Pasta is just as it sounds; pasta “noodles” made of vegetables. Two popular vegetables to use are zucchini and spaghetti squash.

Barilla has a selection of whole-grain pastas like rotini. Their rotini contains an excellent source of fiber and vitamins and minerals. Being screw-like and spiral shaped, rotini works well with any sauce and is good for holding chunky chopped vegetables, or use to make a cold pasta salad. Make a whole-grain rotini pasta dish healthier by using fresh vegetables and herbs in a homemade tomato basil sauce.

Ancient Harvest produces a gluten-free and vegan quinoa pasta made with organic quinoa flour and organic corn flour. As it is low sodium with no cholesterol and low fat, this pasta is healthy even before vegetables are added. Take cooked gluten-free spaghetti noodles, drain, toss in a light coat of olive oil for heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, and top with vitamin packed vegetables like steamed broccoli and mushrooms.

Explore Asian offers a rather different selection of gluten-free and organic pastas. Their spaghetti and fettuccine pastas are made with soybeans, mung beans, and black beans, all of which are great healthy pasta options if you are wanting to reduce your carb and sodium intake. Replace your usual pasta for this type and see what you think! Their gluten-free, vegan, and organic mung bean fettuccine would pair well with the flavors of a vegan sun-dried tomato pesto and topped with a vegan parmesan cheese like this one.

Raw zucchini ribbons make an excellent choice for a super-healthy pasta dish. This squash is low in calories, has no fat or cholesterol, and the skin is rich in fiber. To create the ribbons, take whole fresh zucchinis, cut off a little of the ends, then use a box grater (like the Norpro 339 Stainless Steel Grater) on its side and move the zucchini along in long strokes to form ribbons. Raw zucchini pasta and a marinara sauce come together to satisfy any hunger in a healthy way.

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When cut in half and baked, a Spaghetti Squash can transform into a beautiful plant-based “pasta” dish. Packed full of potassium, calcium, and vitamin A & C, a spaghetti squash pasta makes for a heart-healthy and nutritious meal. Check out this recipe for Spaghetti Squash with Alfredo Sauce. The alfredo sauce is raw and dairy-free!

Image Source: Jennifer/Flickr